Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's the digital communication capability of Australian governments?

On the back of the UK Government's second whole-of-government communications plan, the UK Government has been undertaking a Digital Communication Capability review asking (in simple terms), how is digital communication and engagement done, and how could it be improved?

The Review has involved consultation with Communications Directors, digital engagement specialists and senior executives across the UK Government and was led by a team of three independent reviewers with a deep knowledge of digital communications.

The review is still in the closing stages (final due in November), however has been an extremely transparent process, with all comments available online and the draft report already released for final feedback (similar to the process the Australian Gov 2.0 Taskforce used in 2009, but has been rarely used since in Australian government).

Many of the top-line findings would resonate with Australian public sector digital communications professionals, with the headline finding being:

Pockets of good practice notwithstanding, the headline finding is that digital communication in government is developing in silos and not in the mainstream. The consequence is that it is being outpaced by the best of the commercial and NGO worlds. Too much is broadcast and does not seek to engage. And, crucially, it is still treated by many in departmental leadership positions as a specialist area where the risks usually outweigh the benefits.
Underneath this, the review found that there wasn't a natural home for digital within departments - with placement in existing areas such as media relations leading to a biased approach which didn't serve all agency needs.

It also found that;
  • departments were not realising economies of scale, with different agencies separately purchasing the same or different social media management and analytics tools, 
  • communication focused far too much on informing rather than conversations, 
  • objectives were based on easily measurable quantitive scores (such as followers or tweets) rather than on changing outcomes,
  • there was an over-reliance on 'build it and they will come' approaches, 
  • there was a shortage of skills - exacerbated by a lack of confidence and judgement, 
  • there were limitations on access to social media due to IT security considerations - which may be valid but were poorly explained and understood, and
  • there was a lack of trust and overriding pre-occupation with risk.
Unfortunately there's been none of this type of work done in a systemic way in Australia - despite it being possible to take an approach (such as the UK one) and repeat it across every state, territory and the federal government to provide a comparable model (then do a cut-down version for local governments).

This is similar to where I started with the Digital Innovation Review I conducted in Victoria (no other states or territories have been interested in a similar review as yet though).

I'd like to help. Any takers in government?

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